Archive for the ‘ Movies ’ Category

Dealing with The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi came out just over a year ago and it has continued to cause a great disturbance in the fandom. I personally saw The Last Jedi two times within 24 hours on its release, something I’ve only done once before with The Fellowship of the Ring.

The difference between those two instances is that I absolutely loved The Fellowship of the Ring, so much that Lord of the Rings has arguably surpassed Star Wars as my favorite film trilogy. The Last Jedi, I didn’t particularly care for on my first showing. After my second viewing, my feelings didn’t change. They likely got a bit worse the more I thought on it.

People have gone to great lengths to dismiss any and all criticism of the film as blind hatred, not true fans, man children who can’t handle change. To me, it’s about respecting the property. More particularly, a lack of respect for the Star Wars saga. Rian Johnson set out to “subvert expectations” and in the process, essentially subverted the entirety of the Star Wars saga and assassinated multiple characters in the process while simultaneously making decisions that didn’t fit the pace of the film or support the narrative it was trying to present.

Poe & Holdo

The film starts off taking Poe Dameron, who we were led to believe in The Force Awakens was a hot shot pilot that was willing to take risks that would put himself in jeopardy for the good of the Resistance, and revealing he is apparently willing to sacrifice entire squadrons for a single minor victory that might boost morale. This seems like a bit of a change of character for the sake of setting up Poe to be wrong in his opposition to Holdo.

With Holdo’s introduction, it seems like Poe doesn’t believe she’s who he’s heard of because she’s a woman, striking a chord with 2017’s fresh surge of feminism and painting a target for many a YouTube video complaints. The problem with this entire set up is that Star Wars does not take place in 2017 Earth, but a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away. Women are leaders in the Star Wars universe. They are senators, queens, admirals, generals, Jedi, smugglers, bounty hunters, assassins, and adventurers. Poe clearly holds Leia in high esteem. It’s logically inconsistent for Poe to simply be in disbelief that Admiral Holdo is capable because she’s a woman, yet that’s the impression the film seems to give.

If the film had included information that, based on her appearance, Poe recognized her as coming from a pacifist planet we’d have some basis of his disbelief. Instead it seems like a ham fisted way to set up a strong woman to dress down the hot shot pilot and thus “subvert our expectations” in having the hot shot pilot in Star Wars be a bad thing.

Then there was the whole “tell us you have a plan” vs “STFU stupid man, I don’t have to tell you jack” angle that just…. made no sense.  Yes, she didn’t owe Poe an explanation. He was demoted, she didn’t know him, he was a potential loose cannon, but to not even say “yes, we have a plan and no you don’t need to know it”? The extent to which they had her remain silent seemed irrational.

What’s more, the speculative leap from “it’s impossible to track a ship through hyperspace” to complete acceptance that it’s possible, developed, and happening, had no support. It was just speculative guessing accepted as fact. It seemed far more obvious, and I thought they were going to do it, that someone in the Resistance was a traitor feeding their coordinates to the First Order. If they had gone this route, Holdo and Poe could have simply distrusted each other as the spy.  Between Finn and Rose, they might have deduced the possibility of the hyperspace tracking technology, but by that point you’d have Poe unwilling to trust this information with Holdo (or if you took it to her, why would she believe a few nobodies who are pals with Poe?).

Ultimately, I felt nothing for Admiral Holdo. She was a fairly useless character who accomplished nothing (a common theme throughout this film for all the characters save a couple) and was written out as quickly as she was introduced. Her death had no weight or emotion to it, though. With no time to care about her, I really didn’t care about her dying.

What’s more mind boggling to me is that Abrams, Kennedy, and Johnson didn’t plan to write out the original cast with Solo’s death in VII, Leia’s in VIII, and Luke’s in IX to begin with. Personally, I’d lean towards Luke surviving to cameo in future films as the Jedi Headmaster since everyone just assumes he’s going to die akin to Obi-Wan and Yoda.

At the start of this film, Leia talks about how tired she is of losing people. It’s not guilt, but there’s a sense of survivor’s weariness to Leia that makes her simply shuffling off to leave her friend to die perplexing.  It seems to me that having Leia stay on the ship and perform the heroic sacrifice would have had far more emotional weight and would have given Leia a truly heroic send off.

It would also allow Holdo to be carried forward into IX to be further developed and fleshed out, taking on the torch in a General Leia or Mon Mothma role.

Rose and Finn

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Rose Tico was a fairly unnecessary character with how the film played out and a lot of her parts make no sense. That said, anyone who attacked the actress is a complete and utter fool. Kellie Marie Tran was given a script and she portrayed what was written in that script. She did her job. She didn’t write the script, she didn’t design the character, she didn’t make the story decisions.

Personally, I liked Rose’s introduction. A lot. Her fan girling over Finn with a quick flip of the switch to tazing him for his attempt to desert the Resistance made an interesting and fun introduction. I liked that she seemed like she was loyal to the Resistance above all else. Even tripping over her words in front of a hero she admired, she wasn’t going to give that hero any leeway whatsoever if he was going to hurt the Resistance.

Then she just sort of turned into Finn’s sidekick who was there to make a few comments on animal cruelty, class inequality, and war profiteering before ultimately taking action to save Finn by crashing her speeder through the plot to leave massive gaping holes.

The final scene with her saving Finn and telling him they’re going to win the war by saving what they love just didn’t work for me at all.

  1. Rose has known Finn for about a day and she’s in love?
  2. Rose stops Finn from preventing the cannon from blowing open the doors to allow the First Order access to wipe out the Resistance.
  3. Why didn’t the First Order just fire the cannon again into the base and kill everyone at once?
  4. How did Finn drag/carry unconscious Rose the entire distance from their crash back to the doors and get inside before the walkers made any progress?
  5. Why didn’t the First Order just take one shot and kill Rose and Finn as he was carrying her all that way back?

Just nothing about that entire scene made any sense.

Rey

Yes, Rey is still essentially a Mary Sue.

An “idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience, and usually are able through some means to upstage the main protagonist of an established fictional setting, such as by saving the hero.”

Rey can instantly fly the Millennium Falcon, repair the Falcon on her own, overpower Kylo Ren with the Force, use Jedi mind tricks, defeat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel after again overpowering him with the Force and advocates said it would be explained in The Last Jedi. Instead, The Last Jedi simply showed that she can further train herself with a lightsaber, is so powerful that she scares Luke, doesn’t need any training from a Jedi master, and can use the Force more reliably than Luke did when he sought training from Yoda. Even mirroring Luke’s confrontation with Vader by going to face Snoke and Kylo, she comes out ultimately victorious and suffers no loss or real setback whatsoever.

Rey is perfect. She has no flaws. She is skilled at everything with no background or training. And she is better than the established canon’s heroes. There is no passing of the torch in the sequel trilogy. Rey carries her own torch, she IS the torch, and doesn’t need one from anyone that came before.

Snoke

There’s nothing to even say. Snoke was a joke. We have no idea what he was or how he did anything up to this point other than being supremely powerful in the dark side, except apparently fairly oblivious to the Force at the same time. Much like Holdo, since we knew nothing about him it’s hard to really care that he’s dead beyond the emptiness of not knowing anything about how we got to where we are in the story when so much was by his doing.

Luke Skywalker

Now we come to the real crux of what drove so many fans up the wall. Luke Skywalker is part of American mythology. He’s one of the last of our mythic heroes. Johnson not only assassinated Luke’s character, but in the process wrote the entire story of the Skywalker saga to be completely irrelevant and moot.

The Jedi were utter failures in every sense of the word. Everything about the prophecy was complete rubbish. Anakin didn’t bring balance, he set the galaxy to darkness. Luke was not a new hope, he was a temporary blip before he also set the galaxy to darkness. Everything that happens in episodes 1-6 is completely pointless. The best we can hope for at the end of 9 is that Rey finally sets everything right because she read some books and was wiser than all Jedi throughout history.

If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I am. In “subverting expectations” and deconstructing Luke, Johnson managed to essentially crap on everything George Lucas had done with the Star Wars saga.

What’s frustrating is we’ve got interviews from Mark Hamill indicating he was supposed to be shown as having the Force swirling around him with how powerful he was at the end of VII and they didn’t do it. Production art shows him meditating with what appears to be a Force, or even Sith, ghost behind him.

If Luke had been pushing Rey towards that cave, towards the dark side, it would definitely not be what fans expect from Luke. We could have had Luke rediscover, and put Rey on the path of, the original Jedi from the expanded universe (which Disney is using pieces of here and there) in using both light and dark side of the Force and maintaining balance within themselves rather than the split of Jedi and Sith.

This would finally complete the Skywalker saga in full circle. Anakin, through his son, returns balance to the Force by Luke returning the Jedi to a path of balance within themselves. And that prophecy would be embodied by Rey, a nobody from nowhere, rather than the Skywalker bloodline. Yet it would still be Luke passing the torch to the next generation rather than Luke being irrelevant entirely.

Yes, Luke ultimately does something to buy the Resistance time and becomes an inspirational legend across the galaxy and I’ll admit that a final scene of Luke gazing at the sunset in mirror to the first time we met him was poetically beautiful, but a single scene of poetic mirroring isn’t better than the whole narrative coming together in mirror and contrast to bring resolution to the whole story.

Episode IX will be the conclusion of the Skywalker saga and with everything set up by Johnson in Episode VIII, the only way the saga can conclude is with the Skywalkers having been ultimately a blight upon the galaxy, not a new hope, not a correction of the Jedi mistakes. That’s why I’m bitter.

Wishes and Dreams

In hindsight, I’d have preferred Episode VII kicked off with Rey and perhaps even Finn being the only two surviving Jedi of Luke’s school, possibly with a handful of students. Luke has still disappeared and Rey and Finn have two different views on how to proceed forward – Rey searching for Luke and Finn looking to aid the Resistance.

With Finn, we could have Jedi Leia giving him some guidance and give her a chance to actually be a Jedi in her own right rather than space flying nun.

With Rey, we could have Luke discover the new path for the Jedi to follow (he already breaks from tradition with his school of Jedi in the EU anyway).

And instead of retreading and rehashing the Empire vs Rebellion, we could have had a new direction for the saga with the Knights of Ren vs the Knights of the New Republic. Fans have long wanted a Knights of the Old Republic setting, but why not the same vibe set in the New Republic with Luke’s students as the key figures?

Going Forward

So what can fans do to save Star Wars?

Be loud on social media? Make YouTube videos? Write letters?

Nothing.

Seriously, if you didn’t like The Last Jedi, there’s nothing you can do to change the course Disney and Lucasfilm is taking the series other than simply not go to future films if you feel that strongly about it.

For me, I simply decided I didn’t like this new version of the canon and decided I wouldn’t bother with any of the novels and comics, etc. I’ve heard Rebels is pretty good, so I’ll watch it eventually, though. I’ll watch Episode IX to see how Abrams tries to resolve everything, though I have no sense of anticipation for the film whatsoever at this point.

Instead, I decided to simply go back through the entire EU, starting with the comics and novels set prior to the Old Republic and I’m currently reading the books/comics and playing the games set in the Knights of the Old Republic era. I’ll continue working my way through the prequel era, the original trilogy era, and onward through the post trilogy, new Jedi Order, and on until I’ve completed the entire Star Wars EU saga.

It’s that simple, really. If you don’t like it, let it go and enjoy what was there before instead. Maybe we’ll eventually get an animated series with Han, Luke, and Leia set after Return of the Jedi, but at this point that’s about the best one could hope to ever see – though even then, knowing it all culminates in them all essentially being failures kind of takes some of the fun out of it.

But in the end, it’s a movie, no matter how beloved. It’s not worth death threats, anger, and hatred. The Dark Side can be seductive and too many who disliked The Last Jedi have fallen to its temptation.

If you didn’t like it, detail why you didn’t in a respectful manner, but realize that some enjoyed it. There’s no accounting for taste, after all, and some people… well, some people are just happy to be wrong.

(Yes, that was a joke)

 

 

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 – Most Heinous

Despite my reservations since March when I got my first glimpse of the designs for the new TMNT, I will admit I started feeling better about the feel of the movie over the last month of its marketing blitz and so I decided I would go into the film with an open mind and give it a solid chance. I got nervous as the reviews started coming in and the Rotten Tomatoes score dropped, but I had bought the ticket, so I was going to see this through.

I’ve grown up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Like many children of the 80s, I was first exposed to the brothers through the cartoon, toys, birthday party items, the first movie and so on.  I enjoyed the first three films growing up, though now I mainly just like the first movie.  I still think the 2007 CG film “TMNT” was a good movie, despite its flaws.  I like the current Nick show and I am absolutely loving the IDW comic series, which is my favorite comic on a monthly basis.  And of course, I’ve gone back and read the original comics (though admittedly not all of them).  All in all, I think I’m fairly open to the various interpretations of the heroes in a half shell through the years.

The latest iteration of the turtles on film, though, deserves its Rotten Tomatoes rating and honestly, I feel like it deserves a poor performance in the box office.  It’s just not a great movie, nor even a great turtles movie.  Much to my disappointment.  I’m going to give fair warning…I didn’t care for the movie, so I’m not going to tease and encourage anyone to see it, so…..SPOILERS AHEAD.

Seriously, Spoilers ahead….

There’s spoilers in this review.

If you’re still here, you’ve been warned.  About spoilers.  Right here. In this post.

The drastic change to the turtles’ look is jarring at first and looks more horrible in still shots than in moving film.  To be honest, the nostrils and noses and the lips are quickly forgotten as you watch the film. You could even get used to these faces as the new look for a film series.  I still think they’re a bit overly decorated in their attire and gear, but even that I can forgive.  Their size, however, is still a detriment.  It just feels off with them being so huge.  At one point when they are sneaking back into the lair to avoid Splinter catching them, their drop to the ground is met with four heavy thuds upon landing.  How they could possibly be ninja when they’re so heavy and bulky is anyone’s guess.  Stealth just doesn’t seem possible, which is fine because they never really use stealth throughout the film.

Ninja are also martial artists, but you don’t see too much of that either.  I think Leonardo got the most actual martial arts demonstrations, followed by Mike and Don, but Raph didn’t really get the same opportunity.  The lack of martial arts is made more apparent by the fact that the Foot Clan aren’t ninja themselves in any way, shape, or form.  They are truly Foot Soldiers and that’s it.  Terrorist soldiers with guns.  There’s nothing martial arts about them, I’m afraid. 

We get some martial arts combat between the turtles and Shredder as well as Splinter against Shredder, but the scenes feel far too short and unsatisfying, particularly since all in all, the only thing we see is Shredder beating the hell out of Splinter and then out of all four turtles.  Yep, they never really beat Shredder. None of them.  They pull out a “we didn’t get killed and saved the day” basically thanks to April and the turtles working together to knock Shredder off dangling debris so he falls to his apparent death on the concrete (but he has mutagen on his gloved fingertip so somehow that’s probably an excuse for him to have a healing factor and survive if a sequel somehow gets approved).

These are disappointing, but even more disappointing is the plot. Or lack of one.  The film starts off with a lengthy intro from Splinter, voiced by Tony Shalhoub who I love as an actor but doesn’t make a very good Splinter to me, essentially talking to the turtles.  He explains how the city is under siege by the Foot Clan, named that because they walk all over others in their search for power.  I’m serious, that’s why they’re called the Foot Clan: they walk over people.  He goes on to talk about how important and extraordinary the turtles are and how they are destined to do great things.  I’m already feeling antsy that the opening scene talks about destiny.

From that point we pretty much just leap from action sequence or humorous scene with little to no time given to really build on the relationship between the brothers or with Splinter.  I did like that Splinter is a bit more harsh with the turtles, that more classic martial arts sensei of kung fu films coming through as he has them in a room for over 12 hours for their punishment.  Leo is in full splits between two chairs balancing eggs on chopsticks, Mike is hand standing on a spinning chair, Donatello is juggling a ping pong ball with paddle while balancing on a beam atop a ball that’s rotating, and honestly, I forget what Raph is having to do.

Beyond that, though, we jump quickly through the plot to learn about April’s father working with Eric Sacks and that Sacks works for Shredder.  We also learn how much they’ve altered the origin.  Which is to say, somewhat painfully.

So in this version of the film, the turtles and Splinter were lab animals that April’s dad was working with under Eric Sacks.  Splinter was a lab rat and April considered the turtles her pets as a child.  She often fed them pizza.  Her father learned what Sacks was up to and set the lab on fire to destroy their research, though we learn Sacks killed April’s father in the process.  And somewhere amidst all this, April rescued Splinter and the turtles and fled the lab to take them to leave them on a sewer grate.  Splinter and the turtles go into the sewers and begin to mutate.  Here’s where they really lose me….

Splinter finds a book on ninjutsu in the sewer and teaches himself, then teaches the turtles so they can defend themselves.  No Hamato Yoshi, nothing other than a mutated rat finds a book on an ancient secret style of martial arts and just teaches himself.  Sigh….

There are glimpses of some potential as Shredder has a cool scene fighting a Foot soldier with his own arms bound behind him.  He berates Karai for her men being weak and talks about how the Foot clan will rise to power again and people want to make the Foot into myth, which he won’t allow.  So there seems to be the indication that perhaps there is a ninja clan that’s been lost to time, but now they’re just terrorist soldier goons.  Nothing develops of this, though.

The film tries to tap into nostalgia with small references to past iterations, but Shredder’s line placement of “tonight I dine on turtle soup” feels really out of place.  Other than that, the original turtles cartoon theme is used for the turtle van’s horn.  It’s a clear attempt, but not well executed.

The characters themselves are in line with their personalities, but also somewhat stereotyped without depth. Donatello is the nerd and tech whiz, Raphael is the bad boy, Leonardo is the leader, and Michelangelo is….not the party dude so much as the horny teenager that wants to get hooked up with April.  I was fully expecting Mikey to steal most of the scenes, but his jokes that weren’t shown on the commercials are almost entirely related to how hot April is and making remarks like calling her “angel cakes.”  Granted, Mikey’s always been the one to have a bit of a crush on April in past films, but this time it’s just a bit weird and a tad creepy.

And the humor doesn’t quite land too well.  In my showing, there were two or three points that the audience audibly laughed.  Some scenes were cringe worthy and most of the best hits were seen in trailers.  The fight scenes being turtles vs automatic rifles really lowered the opportunity for banter as the boys battle.

They managed to get less across in 90 minutes than the original TMNT, despite being able to “convey more emotion” with current technology.  The movie just feels hollow and missing the charm that past movies have had.  It’s hard to decide if it’s worse than TMNT 3 for sure, but it’s a close race.

Visuals are good and some scenes are pretty well done, particularly the snow chase that people have probably heard of.  All in all, though, I’d suggest skipping this one and waiting for Netflix.  At best, it’s a 2 out of 5 pepperonis.

2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

So while there are officially three trailers, the third one that just came out is the first one I consider a full length trailer where Trailer 1 was a teaser and Trailer 2 was just Trailer 1 with 10 seconds of extra footage.  There’s also been a TV Spot.  But here’s the latest trailer:

So I’ve been holding off talking about the new TMNT movie because I wanted to wait until there was enough there to really talk about and form an opinion.  To say it’s been a rocky road for the movie is to put it lightly.  From the “alien origin” to the atrocious leaked “Blue Door” script, to the first look being a crappy children’s Halloween mask, to the late and, in my opinion, weak marketing push so far, I don’t think the heroes in a half shell have been off to a good start.  This trailer is the first that really starts to give some decent look at things.  So let’s break it down.

So we start off with a look at a slew of monitors which from set photos we know are in the turtles’ sewer lair.  Donatello, whose voice sounds pretty good, says “Surveillance is showing heavy foot clan activity.”  We then get the look at the “Foot clan” in the subway in their para-military tactical gear and assault rifles.  While some have argued otherwise, I still have yet to see anything that suggests the Foot Clan is a ninja clan.  They just seem like a military group or a terrorist group.

0:17 in – They have April O’Neil amongst their hostages.  I think Leo says “They’ve taken hostages” to which Raphael replies “Let’s rock and roll.”

0:20 in – We get a look at all their weapons. Leo’s katana, Mike’s nunchaku, Raphs sai (IGN notes that the sai is inscribed with “To find peace, look within, not from without” (paraphrased), and Donatello’s bo.

0:23 in – Going down the subway tunnel, we get a flash of Karai, with a handgun. Karai is flung across the subway and breaks the tile on impact against the wall.  Leonardo throws a Foot soldier across the subway station and through the window of a moving subway car. Don swipes at one, then we get a quick cut to another soldier being thrown into the ceiling.  I really don’t like the idea of the TMNT having superhuman strength, but I’m convinced they have it.  They did in the Blue Door script (Leo one arm throws a forklift) and what we’ve seen here looks like they have superhuman strength in the final product.

0:29 in – Raph proclaiming “This is OUR city” as we get a look at the soldiers again, a freight container is hurled at them, swinging forward and hitting them. Still implies super strength.

0:32 in – On a rooftop, the turtles seem to be celebrating their victory while April starts climbing from the ground up the fire escape.  Raph shouts “That’s what I’m talking about!” One (again, perhaps Leo?) says “Like shadows in the night.”  And finally one says “You don’t believe what you don’t see” just as the flash of April’s camera gets a pic of them, Raph, Don, and Mike celebrating with a high five and Leo off to the side from them, his weapons not yet sheathed.

0:35 in – This is my favorite part of this entire trailer.  The three brothers freeze in place after that flash.
Mike (whispering): Wha’wassat? (“What was that”, but the delivery is slurred in the whisper, it sounds great.  He sounds a lot like the current cartoon interpretation from Nick)
Donatello (whispering): A camera flash….

0:38 in – Chains shoot out to wrap around April to pull her onto the roof.  From images, Mike seems to have his usual nunchaku, but other weapons as well and they seem to have this one, though just seeing chain it’s hard to say with certainty what it is (I could wager guesses, but won’t).

0:41 in – Raph lands heavy next to April and gives a gutteral growling “Gimme the camera”  It loses some intimidation with Mike or Don mimicking the growl saying “Oh look, he’s doing his Batman voice.”  Leo jumps off the water tower, the scene that’s been in prior to the “just a mask” gag from the previous trailers, telling Raph to back off.  However, right after doing so, he threatens April with “Do not say a word about this to anyone. If you do, we will find you.”  Knoxville actually sounds decent as Leo here.  Honestly, I’m impressed.

0:51 in – Following Leo’s threat, Mike chimes in, echoing it. “Yeeeah, we’ll find yooou.  …I’m sorry, that came across super creepy, okay, that’s just, heh..we-will-find-you-though.”  And we get the now oft-seen April faint.

1:02 in – We get a shot of the city skyline with that Michael Bay WHOOOOM sound.  Get a look at Mike, Don, and Leo in the sewer lair with weapons drawn. Kanji is spray painted on the wall behind them, there’s a bicycle leaning against the wall.  I sometimes don’t like their shells as they don’t look like they’re actually attached to the turtles. They look like a big half shell held against their back with a belt and straps at times.  Leo’s looks worst in this shot.  Splinter has a voice over saying “My sons, I have trained you your whole lives to protect the city above. But I fear you are not ready for its greatest threat.”

1:03 in – While Splinter’s talking, we get a shot of Leo outside in the snow.  Humans running scared. Foot soldiers shooting. Raph running through a tunnel towards a fan grate. An explosion knocking the Foot soldiers back. Close up of Leo (who seems to have a scar along his head, subtle but there).  This shot of Leo, if you pause it, shows a lot of texture on the skin.  Don runs up and pulls his tech goggles down over his glasses.  His glasses seem to have something that comes down and hooks into his nostrils, which may help keep them in place since he doesn’t have a true nose.  Mike in the snowy setting atop a moving vehicle. Raph wearing his brothers’ weapons and twirling his sai (from previous trailers).

1:14 in – As Splinter says “greatest threat” we get to see William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sachs who we’ve been told is Shredder speaking to someone in the shadows. He is bald, his face scarred and he seems to be wearing a black kimono.  This definitely SEEMS to be Oroku Saki, but it’s not clear if he legitimately IS Saki, a wax model (we’ve seen Sachs in a museum of Japanese artifacts and he’s reportedly obsessed with the armor and Shredder’s history), or if he’s a figment of Sach’s imagination. Who knows!  Sachs tells him “We’re taking your armor to the next level.”  We get a look at said armor, which looks black with gold trim from behind. The Shredder armor has really got a cool samurai vibe to it.

1:18 in – Quick clips of Foot soldiers running down a tunnel, Splinter twirling a katana, bomb counting down and exploding, which knocks Mike back.  We get another glance at the lair with that explosion, though it’s an area we’ve seen in photos just from a different angle. Mike gets blasted back over their couch.  He appears to have something painted on his shell as well.

1:20 in – Shredder stands and faces off against Splinter, showing off way too many blades from his hands with a real bad Wolverine complex going on. Splinter says his name finally “Shredder.”  Leo shouts “Sensei!” and goes for Splinter, who jumps over the blades being shot out from Shredder’s arm. Leo is fighting four Foot soldiers, all armed with electrocuted staffs (taser on a stick!).  He also seems to have something bright blue spray painted on his shell.  We get a glimpse of Donatello yelling through what appears to be a cage or something blocking him. Then Mike next to Don getting zapped as well.  They continue to be tazed as they’re led into a truck and locked in.

1:37 in – Raph returns to the lair and jumps across the rubble to Splinter, shoving aside a massive chunk of concrete like it was nothing (superhuman….strength…).  Splinter, buried under rubble, tells him he must stop Shredder.  “Together, you are stronger than he can ever be.”

1:42 in – As Splinter is speaking, Donatello is shown moving forward through the lair spinning his staff and deflecting gunfire.  I think they’re tranq darts, but still gunfire.  Leo takes a couple of swipes at Foot soldiers and Mike skateboards through.

1:48 in – Close up of Raph “Let’s go save my brothers.”  Then we get Raph spinning his weapons, looks to be on the rooftop from when they first ran into April with the water tower behind him.

1:50 in – Queue the DUBSTEP MUSIC!  Three hummers fly over a hill coming down on Leo, who jumps and crashes into the windshield to be thrown ahead of the vehicles.  Mike sees this and yells “Leo’s in trouble” and heads after him on a rocket powered skateboard, drop kicking a guy off a hummer. Another Foot soldier pulls out a rocket launcher and fires, hitting a semi truck (bear in mind, this entire scene is mostly from The Blue Door script).   The explosion cuts back to the sewer lair explosion, though.

1:59 in – Raph gritting his teeth with all his brothers’ weapons strapped on faces off against Shredder with “Come on!” Shredder simply grabs him by the throat and walks forward, sliding Raph back, whose feet are breaking up the concrete beneath him and he gets thrown through the air into the ceiling.  Will Arnett, Vernon Fenwick, gets a line “Four turtles, one’s fighting a robot samurai….why not?”  During that we get a quick shot of Mike and Don readying for a fight.

2:06 in – Another shot of Shredder Wolverine-ing out his claws. Another explosion. The tower collapse from every trailer they’ve put out.  People running screaming.

2:12 in – At this point we see Shredder with his arm up calling his blades BACK to attach to his arm (the ones he shot at Splinter earlier).  Mike falling off the semi truck from the snow chase scene.  Raph and Leo flying towards the camera. One of them catching April from atop a building in daylight. Leo sliding down the snowy mountainside.  Donatello uses a button on his bo to flip a hummer completely end over end.  And then a scaffolding with all four falling towards the ground in broad daylight.

2:21 in – Vernon voice over “So they’re aliens” while we get a shot of Leo and Raph from the roof scene facing April.  April replies “No, that’s stupid. They’re turtles.”  Their boss, played by Whoopi Goldberg asks “Is there anything else we should know about the?” to which April says “They’re ninjas.”  End with another look at them fighting Foot soldiers in the sewer.

So I presume what we can piece together so far is this:

Foot Clan activity is something the turtles are monitoring and have been fighting. The Foot take hostages in a subway and the turtles go fight them.  Afterwards, April manages to follow them and first sees them on the rooftop, where they meet and she faints.  I’m assuming they take her back to the lair, but that might be later.  One way or another, she chooses to report what she saw to her boss which her insistence on the story may get her fired (the photo we’ve seen of her with her box outside the station).

Raph has an argument with Leo and leaves. The turtle lair gets attacked by the Foot with Shredder. They defeat Splinter and capture the brothers. Raph returns to find April in the lair and Splinter injured.  He gears up with the weapons and goes with April and Vernon to rescue the turtles.  Once they find out where they are, they make their way into the facility where Raph fights Shredder and gets beaten.  He gets away from Shredder to free his brothers and they escape with April and Vernon in the semi and the turtles fighting off Foot soldiers through the chase.

Returning to New York we get a show down with wanton destruction of public property.

I think I’ll just leave this for now. I need to mull over the details before finalizing my opinion so far.

 

 

Godzilla Stomps Box Office, X-Men Save the Future, Comics, and More!

Wow, it’s been busy this month.  With the TMNT anniversary month wrapped up, there was a lot of other things going on and it’s delayed me from writing another blog entry.  Godzilla stomped destroyed the box office with his release, X-Men: Days of Future Past hurtled through time to win over audiences and critics, a new chapter began in the Amazing Spider-Man comics, the TMNT anniversary issue and new issue of the ongoing IDW comic came out, and Project A-Kon starts tomorrow!  This blog will be a bit more brief and run through all these items…or will be terribly rambly going through all this items!  Let’s see which!

Godzilla

Despite the poorly accepted Godzilla 2000, it seems most people were still remembering the abomination of a movie simply titled “Godzilla” starring Matthew Broderick.  As the latest American production of Godzilla slowly built up its promotional material, fans were growing more and more excited.  The Internet seemed hopeful and as more teasers came out, excitement actually started building and anticipation grew for Godzilla.  A few weeks before release, I read an article in Forbes predicting the movie was going to be a box office flop.  The King of Monsters proved that prediction false with over $93 million on opening weekend and a worldwide gross that’s reached over $521.5 million in box office revenue.  A sequel is already in the works for the new series of the franchise and I hope they continue to do well.

To me, the movie was great.  Perfect, I’m sure there’s a lot of problems, so no, but absolutely fun.  Some complained about the lack of Godzilla, but the series of films have always been about the human element and the problem they face with another giant monster threatening Earth until Godzilla comes along and fights it.  Bryan Cranston was great as expected, but I felt like Ken Watanabe was underutilized.  I’m hoping he returns with a larger part as a more knowledgeable expert on Godzilla in the sequel.  The plot was particularly enjoyable in that it took the standard set up from past films with Godzilla vs a Monster, or MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) where past Godzilla flops have focused on man vs Godzilla.  We don’t want Godzilla as a bad guy, it’s his film and despite the destruction he causes fighting the enemy, he’s our hero!

I thought Godzilla looked great, though he didn’t have the personality of the old films.  He was more animal-like, described as an Alpha Predator of prehistoric origins as hypothesized by Ken Watanabe’s character.  They hint at the original Godzilla film with nuclear testing having awoken Godzilla in the past and granted the first glimpse of him, which was neat as well.  The size of Godzilla is massive. He seemed bigger than I recall, but then the old ones were a man in a suit on a set of miniatures, so it’s more perception than fair comparison.  I’d like to see a little more of his personality in future films, showing he has a little higher intelligence than simply a predatory animal.  After all, the original Godzilla could not only be communicated with by other monsters, but as relayed by Mothra through the twins, he didn’t care for mankind.  In a fight, Godzilla would gloat and laugh at his enemies in his own way and would somewhat throw a tantrum when getting frustrated.  While I don’t think that level of silliness would work for this new Godzilla, showing some level of emotion would be interesting.

I won’t spoil anything, but I will say I was expecting Godzilla to end the fight at the climax by breaking the female MUTO’s jaw.  The way he actually ended the fight shocked me and left me with a big grin on my face.  It was an awesome finisher to the fight.  I’m hoping the next film involves aliens as the source of the monster.
X-Men: Days of Future Past

The film impressed critics, which is saying something.  It’s currently 92% positive with critics and 94% with audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, which is the highest the franchise has ever reached. Even higher than First Class or X2: X-Men United.  It’s also been out for only a few weeks and is already the highest grossing X-Men film, amassing $500 million in just 10 days.  I not only enjoyed the film, but moreso appreciated the direction it has established for films going forward, the next of which is X-Men: Apocalypse.

As Bryan Singer suggested, the film was used to tie up some loose ends and fix some problems almost everyone had with the original trilogy’s plot missteps.  Days of Future Past avoids the temptation of mutant cameos for the sake of saying a mutant had a cameo (seriously, that was NOT Psylocke in Last Stand) and the mutants it does give an appearance to are actually used.  Fan favorites Blink, Bishop and not-as-favorite Warpath join Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Magneto among the chief combatants in the dark future against the evolved Sentinels.  The story of the Sentinels themselves is different than the comics, but works well and is a nice spin on the storyline itself.

People did complain about Wolverine being the one sent back in time rather than Kitty Pryde a la the comics, but it makes sense to me.  The Mary Sue claimed it was lazy writing that neared sexism, but I disagree.  Lazy writing would be to further strain logic to send Ellen Paige back for the sake of it, having to make a convoluted excuse of her returning to a time where’s she’s not even been born.  Compound that with the fact that Wolverine is the frontrunner for the series and it’s logical to have Jackman’s character as the focal point since his character is logically in the past already.  The series already has enough continuity problems, particularly with ages, to need yet another one with Kitty alive when Kitty wasn’t alive for the sake of using Kitty who has been a minor role in the films as a whole so far.  Honestly, if we were arguing for not using Wolverine in Pryde’s place, I’d prefer to go totally unknown and have Bishop as our main focus.  The nice thing about sending Wolverine back, however, is that he doesn’t actually take the spotlight.  Logan is actually better used as a character amongst an ensemble in this film rather than the focal point of the spotlight.

As stated, though, I’m more interested in seeing how things develop from here.  Days of Future Past is the first Fox X-Film under the world building coordination of Mark Millar as consultant for Fox, Jackman said there was more presence from Marvel on set than previous films, and it’s the first real X-Film that’s been produced as an established comic team in the post-Marvel Studios Hollywood.  The film maintained the thematic continuity of the original films with the future X-Men wearing black armored suits akin to the leather of the original trilogy, but there’s some color coming into them as well.  Blue and yellow (in a black/yellow pattern that gives it a tan look) for Wolverine, for example.

I was stoked by the yellow at the ribs and on the arms, actually.

And with the 70s really being pre-X-Men there were not costumes for the majority of it other than Magneto donning his armor which had far more color than the original dark tones.

Very much like his comic colors

Which leads me to wonder if X-Men: Apocalypse, which has already been confirmed to be bringing in young Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm, will be going more traditional in their costumes as well.  Cyclops in a Captain America-like blue, hopefully.  I’m also personally hoping that Storm will have her mohawk for the 80s set film.  My only concern right now is Wolverine.  The timeline was altered in Days of Future Past and rather than undergoing the Weapon X project with Stryker in the 80s, we see Wolverine being taken by Mystique-as-Stryker instead.

With Lawrence’s Mystique becoming the face of the films alongside Jackman, and Mystique’s history of being used as a tie to Apocalypse, I’m wondering if they’re planning on having the Weapon X project headed by Stryker at the behest of Apocalypse and Wolverine becoming the Horseman of Death.  It would be a comic influence to do so, but not one I’d like to see as it causes continuity questions for the films all over again with the X-Men knowing Wolverine before he joins.  There was some cool speculation that the mutants we glimpsed in Days of Future Past, rescued by Mystique, could become the Four Horseman (or three, because…well, Toad).  Havok as War, the one with the radiation symbol on his face for Pestilence, and the one that made the soldiers simply pass out as Famine.  This would indeed leave death open.  Instead of Wolverine, though, I’d much rather see Angel brought back and made into Archangel.

 

Amazing Spider-Man

I have to admit I really enjoyed the Superior Spider-Man arc and as it moved along, you could literally start seeing the problems that were being put together for Peter upon his return.  As predicted at the start of the run, Peter’s return coincided with the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters, and here he is.  The first story they’re telling is going to introduce a new character, Silk, who was also bitten by the same spider that gave Peter his powers in high school.  Now, the character might be interesting, but I hate when writers go back and add to the long held origin story.  The “oh, but here’s what really happened” or “here’s the rest of the story” doesn’t work for me and it rarely adds anything of value to the overall story.  I may also still be annoyed at “Xavier is an asshole” from the Second Genesis addition with Deadly Genesis.

The only thing I was particularly nervous about that won me over in a single issue was Anna Maria Marconi.  It was obvious that Otto had fallen in love with her and was in a serious relationship with her.  I liked that she found he was thinking of proposing to her, but I didn’t like the fact that they revealed that things had gotten to the point of sleeping together.  I’m old fashioned and I do like the notion of monogamy after marriage rather than sleep-around-single then settle-down-married.  Yes, I know it’s old fashioned, but it’s also the type of character I’ve always seen Peter to be yet Brand New Day has had him engage in one night stands and friends with benefits.  I think it would have been more contrasting for Otto, who is an older man and might see things more like his generation did, to have followed that notion.  However, I will say the “I’m pregnant” scene was absolutely fantastic and it nailed Maria as a favorite for me.  It’s been a long time coming, but I’m really interested to see how Spider-Man will work having a bit of a Batman quality to him.  With Parker Industries serving as Wayne Enterprises and Anna as his Alfred/Lucius-in-one.

Now when will Mary Jane appear in the movies again so she and Peter can start dating in the comics.  I will always hate the One More Day plot and dissolving the marriage rather than, I dunno, writing it properly and having MJ as a strong character.  Oddly enough, it seems that the whole Brand New Day has done more to better MJ as a character than done anything to really make Spider-Man/Peter better.  Mephisto was certainly right about one thing, though…just under the surface, Peter and MJ still seem to know they’re meant for one another, but just can’t get there….and the other relationships they enter into just don’t feel quite right.  Damn you, Mephisto.  I hope Dr. Strange gives you a whomping in an arc around the time of his movie release too.

TMNT Anniversary Wrap Up

I watched Secret of the Ooze again.  While the original movie still holds up, the Secret of the Ooze doesn’t.  It’s a perfect example of Hollywood getting involved with too much control. The film is clearly made to be silly and more funny for kids where the original film, an independent film, had a more mature tone.  I couldn’t bring myself to take time for TMNT III or to rewatch TMNT from 2007 (which I actually really liked).

The 30th Anniversary issue came out and while nothing particularly special to delve into on a continuing basis, it was a neat comic.  Multiple short stories, each one in the style of the various incarnations of TMNT: Mirage, Archie Comics, Image, IDW.  Very cool stuff.

The latest issue of the ongoing IDW was great. I really like Don’s friend Harold and the introduction of Metalhead was really cool. Santolucco is a great artist for the series and the writers are still doing some neat stuff there.  With Leo still being my favorite turtle, I’m interested to see how things continue to develop for him.  Everyone writes him off as the boring character since he’s the boy scout, but I think IDW has done well fleshing him out more. He’s sometimes a jerk (he’s the big brother, after all) to the others when they disagree, but he also cares about his family.  Despite being the most dedicated student, you can see a bit of difference of opinion between him and Splinter growing in his concern over agreeing with Don that dealing with the Technodrome and Krang may be most important while Splinter is focused on their direct problem with Shredder.  I’m definitely interested to see where that leads as all children have difference of opinion with their parents as they grow.  We know the Rat King is going to be appearing soon and that will be a good story for Leo as he’ll have to handle things alone if Splinter is under the Rat King’s sway.  Next issue, however, is looking to be great as we get a pairing that isn’t explored enough: Raph and Mike.  I’m really looking forward to that!

And Old Hobb and Slash are still working their own plan, as we saw in the end of this latest issue.  I’m expecting Alopex to wind up back in New York and possibly joining him for a while.  I’ll admit, I really like Alopex.  Granted, she a fox, literally, so that’s a plus for her in my book, but I like the character.  I just hope they don’t further the Raph/Alopex friendship as it makes her too much like Ninjara for me.  I’d much rather see Alopex and Leo form a friendship since they have history of going through similar challenges with the Foot and, honestly, Leo needs a friend.  Raph has Casey, Don has Harold and April, Mike has the pizza shop guy and possibly a police detective.  Leo has his family.  That dude needs a friend.

Project A-Kon 25

The big 25th Anniversary of the longest running Anime Convention in North America is THIS WEEKEND!  This will mark my 10th year straight going to this convention and I’m really looking forward to it.  I don’t cosplay anymore and sadly I won’t be taking Crow T. Robot (or will I?) since I don’t have a friend to carry Tom Servo.  I loved taking Crow and Servo and there’s no end to stopping to take photos, but my time at A-Kon is now usually spent at panel after panel with little time to waste in between.  Then again, there’s always down time in the evenings it seems. Maybe Crow will go, though he won’t be cosplaying this year either (seriously, cosplaying Crow is a heavy Crow).

I’m expecting a larger turn out of Attack on Titan cosplay as well as Sword Art Online. Expect to see a few Log Horizon as well.  I’ll be working on a preview of my schedule and which panels to attend today, packing up and getting ready. I’ll also be driving over today to go ahead and pick up my badge and bag o’ goodies.

A-Kon, here I come! 🙂

Batman Revealed, X-Box One Price Drop, and No More Gold Required

Wowzer, today is just full of news and exciting stuff, huh?

First off, and in my opinion most geek-tastic, Zach Snyder gave the world its first look at Ben Affleck in the Batman suit for 2016’s Batman/Superman film.

You can read about that and see the released photo over at Forbes.

But for here, let’s take a look at the lightened version from Comingsoon.net instead!

Best Batman Suit Ever?

The costume definitely has the shorter ears as suggested by earlier rumor that there would be a Batman:Noel influence as well as looking like there’s some influence from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (which has some influence on the film itself, supposedly).

I’m really digging the texture of the suit having a bit of a kevlar armor look and actually looking more like a fabric than some molded rubber or armor plating.  Honestly, I see some influence from another Batman source in there myself.

Arkham city

We also get a look at the new Batmobile there, which looks a bit like a mix of the Nolan-verse tumbler and the more classic Batmobile designs from the years, bit of the Burton/Animated Series influence perhaps.

Now, the Snyder/Affleck suit isn’t 100% perfect in every way. I’d like to be able to tell there’s some darker black to the bat symbol on top of the gray suit and I’m hoping there’s some yellow on the belt like the Arkham design above, but this is a black and white image, so we just have to wait for now to see the fully unveiled color shot of the suit.

Your feelings on Affleck as Batman aside, you have to admit, this is a pretty sweet Batman costume and definitely not something we’ve seen on film before (just like Kevin Smith said).

Now, switching gears to gaming news…

X-BOX ONE WITHOUT KINECT

They said it was impossible! They said it couldn’t be done! They said it was integral and necessary to the entire experience and you would be a raving lunatic to go without it!

And then, just about 6-7 months afterwards, Microsoft is reversing that decision, just like almost everything else they said about X-Box One last year.  That’s right, come this summer, you’ll be able to snag an X-Box One for $100 less than early adopters by forgoing the inclusion of a Kinect if you don’t want it.  Titanfall wasn’t quite enough to help Microsoft catch up to Sony as the PS4 is still about 3 million units ahead of X-Box One in sales, so this price drop is a definite way for them to try and get back into the race for some stronger competition.

Microsoft also announced a change to their X-Box Gold subscription, in that it will no longer be required to access applications for streaming services (because all these years, it totally made sense to require a subscription to access your subscription over the Internet, which you basically pay a subscription for…).

It’s good timing for Microsoft to announce this before E3, putting on-the-fence gamers in a mindset to keep an eye on X-Box reveals and news at the conference with a lower console price point to tackle.  However, you can bet Sony will be planning some big reveals to follow up on the massively successful PS4 launch last year.  Personally, this is all Microsoft playing catch up.  I’m more interested in seeing exactly what Sony and Playstation 4 have in store for Project Morpheus.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Movie

After the original Mirage comics had their cult following and the cartoon had made the turtles a worldwide phenomenon, we got the first live action movie.  A damn good movie.

Who remembers this teaser poster? I do!

The movie mixes a few elements of the Mirage comic with the cartoon of the time for a fantastic result.  April O’Neil remains a TV news reporter, and the turtles keep their intense love of pizza, but otherwise there are a lot of nods to the Mirage comics and the movie strikes a near perfect balance of taking the property seriously while remaining light hearted and just simply fun.

Visually, the movie is one of the greatest testaments to Jim Henson’s creature shop, who developed the suits for the turtles and Splinter.  24 years after the movie’s release, the costumes still hold up and are pretty convincing.  The eyes look believable, the bandannas have a bit of an eyebrow shape that move enough to give some impression of expression without being too distracting when they move.  The mouths move well and can shape to give smiles and mouth movements, though they don’t perfectly match up to the spoken words with exact syncing.  Despite the limitations of the animatronics in the mask, the facial structure and the heads are able to do a lot to convey their speech and emotion.  Peter Laird, co-creator of the series, has said more than 20 years later that these are still the most accurate representation of the turtles in live action to date.

From the neck down, things only get more impressive.  The turtles stand just a bit shorter than 5’7″ April, played by Judith Hoag, and Casey, played perfectly by Elias Koteas at 5’11” tall.  The turtles limbs have a good look of being skin rather than rubber, with the sculpted but not oversized muscles showing definition and veins and giving the actors a good bit of movement.  The fight scene on the roof with Raphael against the Foot is a particularly nice display of how much motion and maneuverability they had in the suits.  Best of all, the turtles’ shells look just plain awesome, both shell and plastron at the front.

The turtles hanging out with the late, great Jim Henson

The turtles and Splinter are voice acted well and the movie properly focuses on the turtles as their main characters, though admittedly Casey Jones steals a few scenes as well.

My one complaint I’ve had since it first came out to today is that, to maintain a PG rating and being a movie for kids, Leonardo is largely restrained and unable to use his weapons for any actual offense.  He attacks, but can’t actually make contact, keeping most strikes to punches and kicks.

The film establishes a crime wave in New York being reported by April right off the bat, showing teenagers stealing throughout the city and giving a first glimpse at Foot ninjas as the stolen goods are handed off.  Looking back, I wouldn’t mind a bit more explanation of Shredder’s ultimate goal since petty theft and teenagers doesn’t exactly indicate a larger criminal empire, but it worked to establish the Foot as a criminal organization.  Within the first 5 minutes we meet the turtles after they save April from being mugged and Raphael leaves a sai behind, giving the first shock of the film when it was released as the first word heard from any turtle isn’t “cowabunga” but “damn.”

The turtles return to their lair and are reminded by Splinter the importance of remaining hidden. Frustrated by the loss of his sai, Raphael goes to see a movie while the others stay home for pizza.  After the movie, we meet Casey Jones as Raph faces off with him over his method of teaching purse snatchers a lesson.  My friend and I still, to this day, will quote “you gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket.”  Raph returns home angry from his overall loss to Casey and has a bit of a father/son moment with Splinter.

The next day, April is confronted in a subway after Shredder sends the Foot to silence her since her investigative reporting is starting to find the threads that might uncover them.  She’s knocked out, Raph saves her and brings her back to the lair, trailed by a single foot soldier.  When April awakes and is told their origin, the foot ninja looks on and reports back to Shredder.  The turtles return to April’s apartment and stay for frozen pizza and hang out a bit, but upon returning to the lair, they find Splinter missing.

Returning to April’s, they stay at her apartment a while and she continues reporting on the Foot.  Raph grows frustrated and impatient and after an argument with Leonardo, heads to the roof for some air where Casey spots him from another building’s rooftop just as Raph is about to be jumped by Foot ninja.  Inside, April gets home from work and takes the other turtles on a tour of the 2nd Time Around antique shop, which is the same name as the shop from the comic.  From here we start to really get a lot of Mirage comic references.

Raph replaces Leo from the comics in facing off against ever growing numbers of Foot until he’s thrown through the ceiling and crashes into April’s apartment beaten within an inch of his life. The turtles fight the foot swarming into the apartment and carry on the fight in the antique store after the floor gives way.  Casey arrives to help the turtles, fire breaks out and the turtles escape with the Foot vanishing as the police arrive.

Following the comics, they head out to April’s family’s farmhouse (presumably in Northampton but not stated in the film).  The turtles are suffering the defeat of losing Splinter rather than being defeated and driven out by a returned Shredder, but there are still a lot of nods to the comics on the farm.  The farm has a windmill like the comics, Raph is replaced by Don working with Casey to repair a truck. Once Raph recovers from his injuries, Leonardo spends most of his time in the woods when we see him, we get a scene of Mikey working a punching bag in the barn, and we get a scene of Raph on the rooftop (though he cries out for Splinter rather than keeping silent guard).  A lot of nice references to the comic for those aware of them.

Leo makes a connection to Splinter and brings his brothers out to a campfire one night where they all meditate and are met with a vision from Splinter.  It’s not really explained, but suffice to say it’s just movie ninja mysticism, though the comics were full of that as well with Splinter swapping bodies through astral projection in an issue.  With training and Splinter’s words preparing them, the turtles head back for the show down.

Back in New York, the turtles get some rest before planning to take on the Foot and Danny (son of April’s boss who ratted the turtles out in the first place) heads back to the Foot headquarters, followed by Casey Jones, and seeks out Splinter.  Shredder learns the turtles have returned and sends the Foot after them, going himself to finish them off.  Casey and Danny rescue Splinter and deal with Shredder’s second-in-command while the turtles fight the Foot through the sewers, to the streets, and onto rooftops.

We get a lot of enjoyable fight sequences, my favorite of which might be Donatello skateboarding through the sewer using his bo to take out Foot ninja as he goes.  The fight culminates on the rooftop where the turtles face off against Shredder one on one, each getting beat, until he gets Leo pinned at the point of his spear.  They give up their weapons to save Leo, but Shredder moves to strike until Splinter appears on the ledge of the roof to distract him.  Realizing its the same rat that scarred him years ago in Hamato Yoshi’s home, Shredder attacks Splinter instead, who reacts defensively.  Ultimately, Shredder falls into a garbage truck below where Casey activates the crushing mechansim.

And Shredder was awesome in this movie too

April gets her big story at the end, Casey and April share a kiss, and the turtles celebrate on the roof top.

Honestly, though critics weren’t crazy about the film, I still find very little weak or wrong with it to this day.  The costumes and animatronics hold up so well where a lot of special effects in the last 5 years don’t age well at all.  Poor CG doesn’t age as well as quality props, costumes and animatronics it seems. Similar can be seen in Jurassic Park where the animatronics still hold up today as well.

Unfortunately, the thing that made TMNT such a great movie was the passion from the people working on it, something that often comes from films made by independent studios.  After the first movie’s success, the sequels came under more scrutiny by studio bigwigs and we got more and more decisions to lighten the movie and make it fun for kids where the original film was more apt for both kids and adults to enjoy with attention given to those connections to the original source material.

It remains the definitive TMNT movie and the one by which other live action adaptations are measured by.  It remains to be seen if the new movie set for August 2014 will hold a candle to it, but in my opinion it’s a very large set of shells to fill.

Amazing Spider-Man 2; Good, but not Amazing (Spoiler Free)

Fair warning, I say “spoiler free” but there are two minor spoilers regarding what I’d say is more of an Easter egg than a plot point.

I saw Amazing Spider-Man 2 on opening night, or apparently on preview night as the showings prior to midnight are apparently called, and while I’ve seen a lot of people hated the movie, I really enjoyed it.  Is it one of the best comic book movies? Probably not. Is it the worst? Absolutely not.  It’s a good movie, it’s fun, and it’s the best version of Spider-Man himself on film thus far.

The first thing I knew from the trailer proved to be accurate; I love the costume.  They finally managed to bring the classic Spider-Man costume to screen in complete accuracy (well, except the stylized spider emblem, but I’ll forgive that).  It looks like cloth, it folds and creases with his movements, it ripples in the wind as he’s free falling, and it looks fantastic with the large white eyes. Hopefully they don’t try to tweak the costume going forward and they just keep this one from here on out.

Seriously, it looks really freakin' awesome.

Seriously, it looks really freakin’ awesome.

Peter Parker is well presented as well, his inner conflict, his hesitation to get close to people out of concern for them, but unable to stay away because he genuinely cares for people.  This is also the semi absent-minded Peter that will ramble a bit before realizing his surroundings when he’s excited or upset.  Honestly, I think Andrew Garfield nailed both Peter and Spider-Man in this film.  He’s got Peter’s emotional anguish as well as his compassion, but foremost, he just seems like a fun Spider-Man.  Cracking jokes, making quips at the expense of his enemies, even just sort of talking to himself while he’s web swinging.

Emma Stone still plays a fantastic Gwen Stacy and the relationship between her and Peter is still perfect on screen. Aunt May is good, though I still can’t quite get over her still having color to her hair, but she’s definitely the caring aunt who still worries but also has her own strength (as she should be).  The only supporting cast member we haven’t seen that I am still looking forward to is J. Jonah Jameson, though I wonder if they’re delaying to set themselves apart from Raimi’s trilogy or if they can’t decide on an actor.  Minor, very minor, spoiler: Jameson does “appear” in the movie in the form of an e-mail response to Peter who is starting to freelance photos for the Bugle.  Personally, I don’t care that it’s a new continuity, I want J.K. Simmons to reprise the role.

Now for the reason the movie was good and not great.  The villains.  Electro is perfectly adapted to screen in terms of his powers and the visual portrayal of them. The fight with Spider-Man is pretty cool and seeing him at full power “living electricity” Electro is pretty cool (unless you’re a purist who wanted the Earth 616 Electro, but remember the movies are, like Marvel Studios films, largely influenced by Ultimate Universe of the comics).  The problem with Electro was Max Dillon.  I don’t fault Jaimie Foxx for a bad performance so much as the writers.  It just felt like he had poor motivation for becoming a villain against Spider-Man.  I kind of dug the origin of him being a nobody that everyone overlooks. Electro has always been a second rate villain in the eyes of many of the rogues’ gallery in the comics and he’s often had stories where his goal is to prove himself a legitimate power player as much as accomplishing whatever scheme he has in the works, so the basic premise of his arc was fine.  It’s just that the build up just seems decent, then the “moment” of going rogue seems fairly forced.

It also felt like the music for Electro’s first fight had this sort of “hearing voices” effect to it, which I felt seemed off for Electro, particularly in a movie with Green Goblin, who is supposed to pretty much be outright insane.  Speaking of Goblin, he also didn’t have the greatest development. Harry had a much better motivation as a foundation for his actions, but it still felt a bit rushed.  I think I also missed a single line that explained why Harry decided to put on the military suit thing that goes with the glider after becoming Goblin.  No spoilers, so I won’t go into detail there.

I will say I didn’t care for Goblin overall, though. It’s one thing I really don’t like from Ultimate Universe being used in film. I really want to see Norman Osborn, completely batty out of his mind, dressed up like a fairy tale goblin with green and purple.  It’s not like it has to be total spandex. Green Goblin has had enough iterations that his traditional look should be able to be pulled off instead of some quasi-pseudo-military/paintball suit.  There are plenty of versions of Osborn’s Goblin costume that has a bit of a scale mail design to it, so I’m just not clear on why they can’t go with that for a movie.

Because this could actually look cool on film

Because this could actually look cool on film

Instead we keep getting all green robo-suits for some reason. Osborn, either Harry or Norman, is crazy as a loon. There’s really no reason someone that far off their rocker couldn’t rationally, in their mind, dress up like this actual goblin to terrorize people and Spider-Man.  On top of that, is it just me or does Dane DeHaan look more like he’s supposed to be Hobgoblin than Green Goblin?

Looks more like Hobgoblin to me.

Looks more like Hobgoblin to me.

Add to the rushed, rather weak, development of the villains with a terribly short fight against Green Goblin and you’ve got a rather disappointing film in terms of villains.  There’s also Rhino, who is really used more as a set up to lead into the Sinister Six film, or Amazing Spider-Man 3 (I’m not sure which they plan on doing first), which Paul Giomatti seems underutilized for.  Mickey Rourke seems like he would have been a better choice after his role as Whiplash to play the Russian Rhino.

All in all, I still enjoyed the film. I know critics hated it, though the review I read from a critic seemed overly critical to me, even suggesting that the movies staying true to their source material is a detriment because it takes away some possible surprises.  Critics aren’t comic book fans, it seems.  I don’t know of any fan who WANTS the movies deviating from the source material.  A Spider-Man movie where Gwen and Peter move to Europe and live happily ever after isn’t what fans are looking for.  We want to see our comic stories brought to life and while I’ll agree adaptation does not mean scene by scene replication, the general direction of the films should be true to their origins.

"I would look across the tables and I'd see you there with Gwen, maybe a couple of kids" --wait, wrong movie!

“I would look across the tables and I’d see you there with Gwen, maybe a couple of kids” –wait, wrong movie!

 

Honestly, though, my favorite addition to the Amazing Spider-Man trilogy came in the form of Norman, then Harry’s, personal assistant at Oscorp.  A pretty raven haired young woman by the name of, spoiler, Felicia.  I’ll leave you to guess her last name, which is not stated nor listed in the credits, but I think we all know what the plan is for her.  I think it would be interesting for Peter to have an ally in ASM 3 myself.

Now, that said, I spent a bit of time playing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game on Playstation 4 today as well.  Honestly, it seems like it would have been a better overall script, but you’d need a lot more time, even trimming it down from game length.  I’m well into it and dealing with a gang war, Russian mafia, Kinpin’s presence, and Kraven the Hunter thus far as an ally and I’ve only met Max Dillon once.  I’m interested to see how they develop Dillon into Electro in the game’s story, which may be able to flesh him out further than the film.  He just seemed so sniveling in the film…

The game, however, is pretty fun but nothing new.  The combat is fun, but not as sharp as the Arkham series and I’m beginning to wish, like many, that Rockstar could get a crack as Spidey since Activision seems happy to recycle every previous iteration of free roaming Spider-Man with a few tweaks.  I do like that the game finally returns to the style from Spider-Man 2’s game where you actually have left and right triggers for web swinging. If there’s a building on the left, a right trigger isn’t going to do anything if it’s just open air and you can’t snag a web line to the sky.  I’m still unlocking things, so I’m not sure if it gets as detailed as Spider-Man 2, which is currently still the best free roam web swinging – being able to do different tricks while swinging and such was a nice addition.

Overall, the game doesn’t seem too ground breaking over Amazing Spider-Man, though there’s a few new random crimes to help with.  Since there’s a crime wave, I’d like to see the petty crimes getting so out of hand that there’s almost no way to manage them all and have that reflect on the city’s opinion of you.  Mostly, though, I just wish Marvel and Activision would develop a free roam Spider-Man game with a lot of thought into it and set firmly in the Marvel comics world.  Let players swing out to the Statue of Liberty and hang out with Johnny Storm.  Have Wolverine cameo.  Contact the Avengers for help to find they’re off world or out of the country.  Iron Man cameo would be another nice touch (get a good Robert Downey Jr impersonator and let the game indulge our fantasy of the merged cinematic universe).  Still, if you enjoy Spider-Man games, this one doesn’t have too much to disappoint other than a general lack of new or groundbreaking features.

So far, at least the story has been interesting and Stan Lee is always a welcome addition to any game (it’s still the same “Stan” you were house sitting for in the first game, who owns a comic book store, the “Comic Stand” with the neon D burned out).  The store is where you can view the statues, comics, art, and access the fight challenges on the arcade machine. I also was amused to bring up my camera and zoom in to look over the comics on the stand, t-shirts on the walls, etc.

All in all, I’d say Amazing Spider-Man 2 is worth the look, either in theaters or on your console.